THE APARTHEID OF SEX by Martine Rothblatt


A Manifesto on the Freedom of Gender
Email this review


 An overly optimistic analysis of the potential for sexual liberation. Are there only two genders, male and female? No, says Rothblatt, vice-chair of the Bio-ethics Committee of the International Bar Association. Rothblatt, herself a transsexual, posits that humanity inhabits a continuum of sexual identity. The polar categorization of people into male or female is simplistic, she argues, and based more on social construct than on science. In illustrating her view of how the new paradigm of ``sexual continuism'' will gain acceptance, Rothblatt frequently relies on racial analogies, outlining, for example, how society changed to reflect racial diversity. She proposes that society will follow the same patterns of justice in order to accommodate sexual diversity. One necessary aspect of rejecting the old paradigm, according to Rothblatt, is the reconstruction of language to remove dichotomous references to male and female. She admits the difficulties with this, considering how deeply gendered our language is. Some of the suggestions are reasonable and even possible, although others are unlikely (replacing ``he'' and ``she'' with ``heesh''). A significant problem with her argument is the occasional reference to ambiguous or unknown sources of historical change. Believing that ``the course of civilization is to provide all persons with equal opportunity regardless of their birthed biology,'' Rothblatt is way too optimistic about the timing of change and its inevitability. For example, the predictions about the importance of cybersex (sex through computers) don't acknowledge class differences in access to such technology both now and in the future. Although the ideas are intriguing and some of her arguments convincing, Rothblatt relies too heavily on generalizations about people, biology, and society without reference to her sources of information and data. Written with heart and insight, the text stimulates ideas about gender, but it is lacking in concrete evidence.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1995
ISBN: 0-517-59997-X
Page count: 192pp
Publisher: Crown
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1st, 1994